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Michael Schulte

Schulte Subaru
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

“Over my 35 years in the retail automotive business, there have been many rewarding experiences, but by far the most satisfying has been my work to change the perception of car dealers. We have done this by injecting a family culture full of kindness, respect and love into an incredible industry that unfortunately has not had a perfect reputation throughout history.”

Schulte attended the University of South Dakota in Vermillion before joining his father, Terry, in his Sioux Falls dealership in 1989. 

“My father worked in the auto industry since 1969 and purchased his first dealership in 1985,” he said. “I started working at the store during summers and after school, cleaning cars, removing snow and scooping out the gunk from the drains in the middle of the service shop.” 

His first full-time position was in the parts department. Schulte later moved to sales for the Subaru, Jeep and Mitsubishi brands and found he had a real knack for closing a deal. He was named salesperson of the month 26 times during his first three years. 

Schulte gained experience in all dealership operations and eventually ran a used-car store and a Kia franchise, where he set sales records. He was by his father’s side as he bought and sold dealerships over the years, eventually buying back the current Subaru dealership in 2008, which is their only store today. 

“I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to my father, Terry Schulte,” he said. “If it was not for this amazing man and his lifetime of working so hard, I would not have received the excellent foundation I have today. His integrity was unwavering, and his enthusiasm was unparalleled.” 

Schulte is thankful that he started at the very bottom and earned his way into management, garnering the respect of his team. “We could not have gotten where we are today without our employees,” he said. “They are the ones that take our dreams and goals from the drawing board and put them in motion. They are the ones on the front lines every day. I’m lucky to have an awesome staff.” 

His wife, Sarah, is an integral part of the management group, overseeing social media and business development. “She believes in me and the mission of our dealership,” Schulte said. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life.” 

Taking a fresh approach to his business, Schulte focused more on making a difference in his community than selling cars. His ultimate goal is to improve the lives of his employees, customers and neighbors. 

And to that end, he is a major benefactor of many groups, including the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society; Children's Home Society of South Dakota; University of Sioux Falls; and City of Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation (Great Bear Ski Park). 

“Schulte Subaru is dedicated to our community with more than $2 million in total donations in the past seven years,” he said. “We also just committed to building one of the first veteran homes in the newly established Veterans Village.” 

In addition, Schulte has contributed his leadership to the boards of STARBASE South Dakota (STEM program); City of Sioux Falls Park & Recreation (Great Bear Ski Park); Great Plains Zoo; Saint Francis House; and others. 

“Giving back to the community is so rewarding to us, whether it’s through serving on a board or volunteering at a community event,” he said. “We are blessed that we have the time, ability and resources to share where there is need.” 

Schulte was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Myron L. Rau, president of the South Dakota Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Sarah, have five children.